Kriminologiska institutionens avhandlingsserie nr. 26, 2008.

Abstract: This dissertation focuses on the attitudes towards misconduct expressed by serving police officers and police trainees during the period 1999 – 2005. Almost 3,000 serving police officers and 800 police trainees have participated in questionnaire surveys and interviews focused on how they rank the seriousness of such behaviours and their own level of tolerance in relation to these behaviours as expressed from different perspectives.

The results indicate a large level of homogeneity among the groups concerned as regards both these rankings and levels of tolerance over time. The highest level of intolerance is expressed in relation to theft – in line with the results from several previous studies – whereas attitudes towards the use of excessive force are more restrained. Following the police trainees’ two year training programme, the level of intolerance expressed by certain trainees does show a general increase, but the level of expressed intolerance diminishes among almost as many others, and the differences in both groups are generally quite small. The level of intolerance expressed by the trainees in relation to the use of excessive force declines by the completion of their training.

A clear pattern emerges among all of the groups examined, whereby the respondents are usually well aware that the behaviour represents a violation and whereby they view the behaviour as serious at the same time as they believe their colleagues view it less seriously. The level of intolerance expressed diminishes when the respondents are asked about their propensity to report the incidents, and it declines still further in their responses as to whether they believe their colleagues would do so. Thus the police officers usually present themselves as being somewhat more intolerant than their colleagues (thus expressing an exaggerated self-image), a characteristic which is not as marked among the police trainees. This suggests that at least among the serving officers, the respondents’ “true” attitudes are those that they ascribe to their colleagues.

The police officers express pronounced signs of the presence of a code of silence, particularly in relation to incidents that may be characterised as less serious. This is not the case among the newly enrolled police trainees, but such signs are also notable within this group once they have completed their training. The exaggerated self-image and the code of silence are contextualised in relation to existing theory, but the approach employed is exploratory.

The dissertation lists the obstacles identified by the respondents in relation to meeting their obligation to report. In this regard the ethical reasoning of the officers is highly consequentialist, and they argue that the seriousness of the misconduct is perhaps the most important factor, but that amongst other things the nature of their relationship to the colleague in question and whether or not the misconduct occurs while on duty also make a difference. One condition necessary for not misconduct not to be reported, however, is that it does not occur in public.

The dissertation includes two smaller excursive studies, the one a jurisprudential examination of the duty of loyalty, the other an interview study with “whistle blowers”, i.e. police officers who fulfil their obligation to report internal misconduct.

The questions examined are of relevance both for police training and also for questions relating to public confidence in the police.